Truman Capote:  Years of Influence

Truman Capote by Jack Mitchell, Source: Wikipedia Commons
Truman Capote by Jack Mitchell, Source: Wikipedia Commons

Capote: Celebrating the Birth of One of Monroeville’s Own

The end of September would mark the 92nd birthday of a man that Monroeville claims as one of its famous, gifted children–Truman Capote.

Capote and Harper Lee

Capote, who spent much of the time during his formative years in Monroeville, was born Truman Streckfus Persons.  He was a dear friend from childhood of Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird; the character in Lee’s novel—Dill- bears striking resemblance to Capote.  Eventually, the two would work together to complete Capote’s 1966 true crime novel and the work for which he was best known, In Cold Blood.

Capote on Writing

It was while writing In Cold Blood that Capote refined his abilities to memorize long, detailed quotes from subjects.  The New York Times quotes Capote as saying that he had, ”a talent for mentally recording lengthy conversations, an ability I had worked to achieve while researching The Muses Are Heard, for I devoutly believe that the taking of notes, much less the use of a tape recorder, creates artifice and distorts or even destroys any naturalness that might exist between the observer and the observed, the nervous hummingbird and its would-be captor.”

Capote on Fame

While Capote was a gifted writer, his flamboyant persona sometimes reaped more notoriety than his written works.  He moved to New York City in 1933 and wrote for The New Yorker before publishing his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1948. It was Other Voices, Other Rooms that made him a star and began a barrage of regular media attention, which by all accounts, he enjoyed immensely.  Capote was known to love (and share) a great bit of gossip, and for his quick and edgy wit.

”I had to be successful, and I had to be successful early,” Capote once said, ”The thing about people like me is that we always knew what we were going to do. Many people spend half their lives not knowing. But I was a very special person, and I had to have a very special life. I was not meant to work in an office or something, though I would have been successful at whatever I did. But I always knew that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to be rich and famous.”

Eventually, Capote became a familiar face on TV, and was often featured on the Johnny Carson show, among others.

Capote: Final Years

By the late 1970s, Capote was suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, and his star was fading somewhat. To keep his fame from waning, in 1975 he consented to allow Esquire to print excerpts from an unfinished book. The consequence was dire as Capote relayed apparently true and less than flattering stories about his circle of well-known friends, naming them and detailing their exploits.

Truman spent a good deal of his final years in the company of Joanne Carson, ex-wife of Johnny Carson, and passed away in her home on August 25, 1984 at the age of 59.

The Broadway play Tru was based on Capote’s life and offered a fresh voice to tell Capote’s story for the time it was in production (1989-90), five years after the author’s death.

Among his essays, novels, stories and screenplays, are The Grass Harp (1951), The Muses Are Heard (1956) and Music for Chameleons (1980).  His unpublished first novel, Summer Crossing, was found and sent to print in 2005.  Capote referred to the work as “the tiny terror.”  If you’re interested in reading more of Capote’s works, The Complete Stories of Truman Capote is a great place to start.

What are your favorite Capote works and why?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Leave a comment: